So you’re ready to capture the radiance and beauty of your pregnancy and pose for a maternity photo session. It’s already an exciting time in your life- anticipating the big day, getting baby’s room ready and preparing to become a mom, and your photos will capture this excitement and your beauty for all time. As a professional photographer, I’d like to offer some tips that you can use to prepare for your upcoming maternity shoot and ensure that you get the most from it.

Timing: I’ve found that the optimal time is between 30 and 36 weeks. With that being said, you may want to think about scheduling a shoot when your baby bump first appears and then doing a monthly follow up session so you can see how your pregnancy progresses. You don’t want to wait too long into your pregnancy to schedule and then not feel up to it or have baby show up a little early…timing’s everything and you won’t get another chance for a while.

Stretch marks: My advice is don’t worry about them. Your photographer will skillfully remove them from your photos should you wish. While most pregnant women get stretch marks, don’t fall victim to the ‘miracle cure’ industry and spend a lot of money on products that don’t deliver. Belly Oil is a great moisturizer, and by all means, I encourage everyone to moisturize, but it’s not going to eradicate stretch marks. However, Belly Oil and other products, many costing less, can keep your skin healthy and hydrated and that will enhance your photos. On that topic, also give some thoughts to any tattoos or birthmarks that you may want you photographer to remove from the final prints or to work around during the shoot.

Pre-Plan: Give some thought to the look that you’d like your session to have. Are you thinking of doing topless or tasteful nude shots? What about props, such as baby booties or stuffed animals, etc.? It’s a good idea to talk it over with you photographer beforehand and get his or her input. Are you open to doing some classic, artful black and white or sepia toned shots? Are you thinking of having your significant other involved? Having an idea of what you want to do with your maternity photos is key: will you use them as holiday cards? On yours and your significant other’s desk? Family-friendly or more private and intimate? A little thought and planning goes a long way.

Setting: Will you be doing the session at the photographer’s studio or in your home? Maybe you’d like to do an outdoor shoot. If you’re going to be shooting at the studio, make sure that you visit beforehand so you know what the setting will look like. One of the advantages of doing it at home is that you’re likely to feel more at ease and comfortable…just make sure that the area you plan to shoot in is uncluttered.

Clothing: Think about what you want to wear (or not wear, as the case may be.) One of your partner’s crisp white dress shirts can make for a classic shot. In general, choose clothing that you can move comfortable in and that makes you feel confidant and beautiful. Yoga pants, tank tops, lingerie, fabrics that feel good against your skin and cling to your curves are always good. If you’re thinking about doing topless or semi nude, avoid tight elastic sleeves or waistbands, including socks, hose or underwear, as they tend to leave marks that the camera will find. Also bring a robe or a comfortable wrap.

In addition: Keep in mind that moisturizers, such as Belly Oil are good, but on the day of the shoot try not to overdo it – lotions or moisturizing crèmes can leave you too shiny. Also, when it comes to makeup, less is more – let your natural beauty shine through. A little lip gloss is good, but go easy on the cosmetics, and It’s never a bad idea to get a manicure and pedicure prior to your session, since your hands and feet may be featured in some shots.

With a little planning and preparation, you and your photographer will create some amazing, creative photos that you’ll treasure forever!